The SCOTUS Ruling on the AZ Immigration Law

I don’t completely agree with the media conclusion that Section 2(B) was upheld. After reading the Court Summary, I’ve concluded they punted and left it to the State Court to decide if it ultimately stands, in part, because there is no track record on how it will be enforced.

I’ve reformatted the Court Summary and highlighted some of it, to emphasize, what I think is relevant to my conclusion.

Background:

  1. Section 3 makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor;
  2. Section 5(C) makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State;
  3. Section 6 authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person “the officer has probable cause to believe . . . has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States”
  4. Section 2(B) requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government.

 

Summary of the ruling:

  1. Section 3 intrudes on the field of alien registration, a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate.
  2. Section 5(C)’s criminal penalty stands as an obstacle to the federal regulatory system. The correct instruction to draw from the text, structure, and history of IRCA is that Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees. It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose.
  3. By authorizing state and local officers to make warrantless arrests of certain aliens suspected of being removable, Section 6 too creates an obstacle to federal law. As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States. The federal scheme instructs when it is appropriate to arrest an alien during the removal process. The Attorney General in some circumstances will issue a warrant for trained federal immigration officers to execute. Federal law specifies limited circumstances in which state officers may perform an immigration officer’s functions. This includes instances where the Attorney General has granted that authority in a formal agreement with a state or local government.
  4. It was improper to enjoin Section 2(B) before the state courts had an opportunity to construe it and without some showing that Section 2(B)’s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives.
    1. The state provision has three limitations: A detainee is presumed not to be an illegal alien if he or she provides a valid Arizona driver’s license or similar identification; officers may not consider race, color, or national origin “except to the extent permitted by the United States [and] Arizona Constitution[s]”; and Section 2(B) must be “implemented in a manner consistent with federal law regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.”
    2. This Court finds unpersuasive the argument that, even with those limits, Section 2(B) must be held preempted at this stage.
      1. The mandatory nature of the status checks does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme. Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system. In fact, Congress has encouraged the sharing of information about possible immigration violations. The federal scheme thus leaves room for a policy requiring state officials to contact ICE as a routine matter.
      2. It is not clear at this stage and on this record that Section 2(B), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status. This would raise constitutional concerns. And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision.
        But Section 2(B) could be read to avoid these concerns. If the law only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision would likely survive preemption—at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives. Without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume Section 2(B) will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law.


     

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About jackdetate

Married, 2 children, retired, enjoying unstructured time: "And then he drank a dew From a convenient grass, And then hopped sidewise to the wall To let a beetle pass." ~ Emily Dickinson
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